Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The half-liberated man and I-Ching

In primitive culture, man has no internal psyche, everything inside is projected onto outside objects. Jung called it participation mystique. "It is not that I who is afraid of possible killer beasts in the forest, but the forest is inhabited with fearful demons". Every emotion is thus expressed, there being no hidden psyche. As such, the personality of the primitive man becomes intact, despite there exist many reasons for him being frightened into a state of panic like a modern man would have react. The price for this "psychological health" is a stagnation of civilization, as anthropologists have been discovering primitives tribes following their traditions in hidden jungles even in modern time. Primitive man is thus constrained and stagnated, waiting to be liberated, psychologically speaking.

How can civilization progress? In order to have progress, man must take (some) responsibility. Ancient Chinese reviewed to us an interesting model of progress, and I-Ching showed us how it works. The gist of the model is: man is no longer succumbed to nature but being part of nature and has a capacity to influence nature under certain constraints.

In I-ching, Heaven, Earth and Man (天地人) form the definitive triad of equal power. And man can navigate carefully or negotiate his way carefully with Heaven and Earth through "acceptable" changes. The Book-of-Change is a manual of change for man as sanctified or "approved" by Heaven and Earth.

In Tao Te Ching chapter 25, Laozi wrote:


That’s why I say
Tao is Great
Heaven is Great
Earth is Great
Man (King) is Great
There are four Greats with Man (human king) being one
Man follows the way of the Earth
Earth follows the way of Heaven
Heaven follows the way of Tao
Tao follows the way of Nature

Whereas Tao Te Ching presented the philosophy, I-Ching acts as a pragmatic menu as to how man (or lords and emperors) can act so that he can change his situation for the better, yet still under the constraints of Heaven and Earth. Unlike the Renaissance man who is totally free, the man of I-Ching is only half-liberated, the voice of Heaven and Voice needs to be followed (at least as interpreted by a sage who is knowledgeable about the subject!)

What then is the relevancy of the living menu of a half-liberated I-Ching man to the already-fully-liberated modern man? I believe the lesson for the modern man in studying I-Ching is to learn to be humble. Instead of man being the master of Heaven and Earth, man shouldn't push too far as his own existence depends on a the existence of a healthy Heaven and Earth. A responsible liberated man instead of a irresponsible one and certainly not a half-liberated man again. For specific advice, one has to study the I-ching, the book-of-change. I shall go into the details of I-Ching's specific advice in future posts.

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